Art What! Arts Singapore Visual Art

Art What!: Singapore Art Museum launches series of family friendly programmes to connect art with different communities

CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace, Childhood, 2020; image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

Families and young audiences will get a chance to let their creative juices flow through a series of upcoming exhibitions and programmes organised by Singapore Art Museum (SAM). SAM will be offering family-friendly art exhibitions and activities in collaboration with artists and the wider community across physical and virtual spaces this school holiday. These include a new community-based initiative Art in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong, SAM’s first ever fully virtual exhibition Between the World and Us – A Think! Contemporary Primary School Virtual Exhibition, as well as The Explorer Project featuring a new imaginative comic inspired by the iconic sculpture, The Explorer.

“SAM is always exploring ways to instil curiosity and the love of art in children and the young at heart. This school holiday, we will be presenting a variety of immersive programmes in both physical and virtual spaces. Working together with multiple partners to co-curate impactful art and experiences, our new multi-year programme, Art in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong, celebrates Jurong as a community playground where people live, work, and play. This is also the first time that we are bringing our signature student programme, Think! Contemporary, online for audiences to enjoy artworks inspired by our collection,” says Dr Lim Chye Hong, Head of Education, Access and Programmes at SAM.

Furthering the museum’s active collaboration with its constituents, SAM has introduced a new initiative Art in the Commons, which features a series of community-based, participatory art programmes developed together with community partners. To kick off this initiative, SAM has partnered Science Centre Board on Art in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong, to explore community interests within the Jurong district. The initiative, supported by Tote Board Singapore, will take place over a period of three years. It invites communities to co-create artworks with local artists and explore the intersection between the arts and the sciences, with each annual edition featuring a different artist.

Debbie Ding, rendered impressions for Data Mining Jurong, 2021; image courtesy of the Artist

The inaugural edition is a collaboration with Singaporean artist and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) lecturer Debbie Ding. Alongside her students from NYP’s School of Design and Media, the works feature the changing identity of Jurong – from an industrial estate to a vibrant hub of industry, commerce and residential units. Ding and her students – sketched out an alternate reality – based on ideas gleaned from public consultations with the communities in Jurong. The culminating exhibition will open on 26 November 2021 at the Science Centre Singapore.

“We took reference from a photograph captured of the groundbreaking ceremony for the Jurong Rock Caverns in 2007, which featured an incredible man-made model of the caverns as its centrepiece,” says Ding. “We then imagined the process of collecting data from the public to be akin to taking an expedition through an ancient, mysterious cavern.”

Ding’s artwork, Data Mining Jurong, surfaces questions of what Jurong is, was, and might become. It represents Jurong’s past through the imagined discovery of oil buried in deep time and consists of two projections. The first provides the narrative for an alternate reality of Jurong, in which the imagined past haunts the present realities of Jurong. The second is an interactive work where audiences can take a slow descent down a mysterious, cavernous mine shaft. Objects embedded in the rock strata are created based on an online public consultation conducted with the residents of Jurong and commuters who either work in or frequent Jurong.

In going through the repository of objects contributed by Jurong locals, Ding’s artwork provokes deep reflections on the neighbourhood as visitors discover the different things that made, and make, Jurong. For families with young children, Data Mining Jurong gives the younger ones a glimpse of the transformation of their neighbourhood, while encouraging them to imagine the future of Jurong. 

St Anthony’s Primary School, Primary 4 students, Our HDB Corridors, 2020; image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

In partnership with CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace, Geylang Methodist School (Primary), Haig Girls’ School, Mayflower Primary School and St. Anthony’s Primary School, SAM presents Between the World and Us – A Think! Contemporary Primary School Virtual Exhibition. This ninth edition of the Think! Contemporary Programme is the museum’s first virtual showcase, exhibiting 18 artworks on the diverse experiences of Primary Four students in the time of the pandemic. Opening on 18 November 2021, the exhibition is spread across four sections: The Stories, The Spaces, The People, and The Hope.

SAM’s signature Think! Contemporary Programme integrates school curriculum with museum visits and uses artworks from SAM’s exhibitions as primary resources for classroom teaching. It is part of the museum’s efforts to co-develop programmes with partner schools and encourage an appreciation for the arts among the younger generation. In this particular edition, students were invited to take inspiration from two past exhibitions, Once Upon This Island from SAM’s Learning Gallery and Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction. Lessons were conducted virtually for the first time in this edition, challenging students to push their creative boundaries and to experiment with various digital mediums for their artworks. 

Sharing his learnings from the programme, Ian Koh Rui Feng from St Anthony’s Primary School says, “I used to think art was about drawings and paintings. But I now realise that it can be anything and everything around us. I like how an “ordinary” image can tell a much deeper story if we only give it a chance to speak to us.” Crystal Anne Wan from Haig Girls’ School also shares, “I learnt that art is about how you express yourself, not verbally but through the creative use of colours. For example, my group’s artwork We Are Family used different mediums which looked very nice when pieced together.”

Accompanying programmes include a virtual art hunt with prizes to be won, as well as an online talk, Thinking Contemporary Art in the Classroom: A Sharing by Teachers on the ideas behind the artworks and navigating this museum-based learning programme during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Young ones can also stretch their imagination and try their hand at creating their own art through a series of child-friendly art workshops. The Explorer Project features a series of programmes inspired by the relocation of The Explorer, a sculpture by artist and Cultural Medallion recipient Ng Eng Teng, to Science Centre Singapore. 

Annuendo, Illustration of The Explorer comic, 2021; image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum

Central to the project is the launch of a new intergalactic comic by SAM, The Explorer, on 20 November 2021. To encourage a more holistic educational approach incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), accompanying programmes for children and families include online talks and workshops conducted over Zoom on illustration, interactive storytelling as well as sculpture making. 

For the full calendar and details of upcoming exhibitions and programmes, visit

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